Diagnosing & Treating Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
At CEC, our team of specialists regularly conduct treatments / injections for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
Continue reading below for more information on this condition, which is important to detect early.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition which affects the central part of your retina which is called the macula. It causes changes to your central vision which can make some everyday tasks difficult.
AMD doesn’t cause pain, and doesn’t lead to the total loss of sight. However, AMD affects the vision you use when you’re looking straight at something, for example when you’re reading, looking at photos or watching television. Your central vision can become distorted or blurry, and over time, a blank patch may appear in the centre of your vision.
Types of AMD
Dry AMD is the most common type of AMD. It develops very slowly and causes a gradual change in your central vision. At its worst Dry AMD causes a blank patch in the centre of your vision.
Wet AMD can develop very quickly, causing serious changes to your central vision in a short period of time, over days or weeks.
You develop wet AMD when the cells of the macula stop working correctly and the body starts growing new blood vessels to fix the problem.
These new blood vessels cause swelling and bleeding underneath the macula which can lead to scarring. The new blood vessels and the scarring damage your central vision and may lead to a blank patch in the centre of your sight.
Both wet and dry AMD only affect your central vision and will not affect the vision around the edge of your sight (Peripheral vision). So neither type will cause you to lose all of your sight.
Early Detection and Action
Early detection and treatment of AMD is crucial in order to preserve vision and quality of life.
Everyone can have slightly different symptoms, but usually the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s harder to see detail, such as small print. You may find that your vision has a small blurred area in the centre. Straight lines may look distorted or wavy, or like there’s a little bump in them. You may also find that you’re more sensitive to bright light.
You should have your eyes tested by an optometrist (also known as an optician) if you experience any of these in one or both eyes:
- You have difficulty reading small print despite wearing reading glasses.
- Straight lines start to look wavy or distorted.
- Your vision isn’t as clear as it used to be.
Your optometrist can measure any changes in your vision and look at the back of your eye. If they find any changes to your macula or any cause for concern, they’ll send a letter to your GP or sometimes directly to the hospital. Based on your optometrist’s letter, the hospital will judge how quickly you need to be seen by the ophthalmologist (also known as a hospital eye doctor), and arrange an appointment for you.
The Amsler Grid
This grid can be used to check for early signs or the progression of AMD. To use the grid, print out our guide here: Amsler Grid.
If you notice any irregularities to your eye doctor immediately: Mark areas of the chart you’re not seeing properly (print two charts if you notice problems in each eye) and bring it with you when you visit your doctor.
Reasons why AMD develops
The exact cause for AMD is not known. Some things are thought to make it more likely you’ll develop AMD, such as:
- Your age: AMD develops as people grow older and while it’s most often seen in those aged over 65, it can also develop in people who are in their forties and fifties.
- Your gender: more women have AMD than men, probably because women tend to live longer than men.
- Your genes: certain genes have been found which seem to be linked to the development of AMD in some people. This has been discovered by looking at families with more than one member who has AMD. However, not all AMD is thought to be inherited.
- Smoking: smoking greatly increases your risk of developing AMD – you can reduce this risk if you stop smoking.
- Sunlight: some studies have suggested that exposure to high levels of sunlight (particularly the UV light contained in sunlight) throughout your life may increase your risk of developing AMD, but this has not been proven. However, wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from the UV light in sunlight is a good idea for everyone throughout their life.
- What you eat: a number of studies have looked at diet as a risk factor for developing AMD. At the moment, there isn’t an agreement on how much of a risk factor diet can be.
In general, protecting your eyes from the sun, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and stopping smoking may all help to keep your eyes as healthy as possible.
Unfortunately, because the exact cause of AMD is not known, you may develop AMD even if you don’t have any of these risk factors.
Treatments for AMD
Treatment for Dry AMD
There is currently no way to treat dry AMD. There is some evidence that vitamins can help with the condition.
Treatment for Wet AMD
The treatment available for wet AMD is with a group of medications called anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs.
The medicine is injected in to the vitreous, the gel-like substance inside your eye.
Anti VEGF drugs work by stopping new blood vessels from growing, preventing further damage to your sight.
Cathedral Eye Clinic are pleased to offer this treatment. If you would like to arrange an appointment with us, please call us on 028 9032 2020 or email [email protected].
If you would like further information about AMD, the RNIB have a helpful guide to ‘Understanding AMD’, which you can download here: RNIB Guide To AMD.